Sunday, September 29, 2013

Lightning Bolt

A short film about Pearl Jam's new record, "Lightning Bolt" which will be released on October 15th (which is also the release day of Avett Brother's new record as well, o what a day!). They talk about the song writing process as well as preview a few of the tracks to be included on the new album. Directed by Danny Clinch.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

An Excerpt From Thich Nhat Hanh's "True Love"

The Energy of Mindfulness
Understanding is the fruit of meditation. When we practice deep looking directed toward the heart of reality, we receive help, we receive understanding, we receive the wisdom that makes us free. If there is a deep pain within you, meditate.
Meditating is not trying to run away, trying to ignore the presence of the pain, but on the contrary, it is looking at it face-to-face. You have to practice deep looking directed toward the nature of this pain, because for Buddhists, we are joy, but we are also pain; we are understanding, but we are also ignorance. Meditating is not transforming oneself into a battlefield where one side is fighting another, where good fights against evil. This is not Buddhist meditation. Buddhist meditation is based on the principle of nonduality. This means that if we are mindfulness, if we are love, we are also ignorance, we are also suffering, and there is no reason to suppress anything at all.
When the seed of anger manifests on the level of our conscious mind, our immediate awareness , it is because the seed of anger is in the depths of our consciousness, and then we begin to suffer. Our immediate awareness is something like our living room. The task of the meditator is not to chase away or to suppress the energy of anger that is there but rather to invite another energy that will be able to care for the anger.
You can use the method of mindful breathing to make the seed of this other energy grow inside you. It will then manifest in the form of energy, and this energy will embrace your energy of anger like a mother taking a baby in her arms. Then there is only tenderness, there is no fighting with, or discriminating against, the pain. The purpose of the practice of mindful breathing is to help to give birth to this precious energy called mindfulness and to keep it alive.
We have already spoken of this energy that illuminates us. Mindfulness is like a light, enabling concentration to really be there, and that also makes it possible for us to look deeply into the heart of things. From this looking deeply is born deep vision, understanding. Mindfulness brings concentration, understanding, love and freedom.
If you are a Christian, you could say that this energy we are talking about is known as the Holy Spirit, the energy that is sent to us by God. Wherever this energy exists, there is attention, understanding, love, compassion. And this energy has the power to heal. Since Jesus embodies this energy, he has the ability to heal whoever he touches. When Jesus touches people, he touches them with the energy of the Holy Spirit. It is not touching his clothing that has the power to heal. We could say that when the energy of compassion and love touches us, healing establishes itself.
In Buddhism we say that mindfulness is the energy of Buddha. The seed of mindfulness is the baby Buddha that is in us. This precious seed can be buried very deeply under several layers of suffering and ignorance. We begin by looking for, by touching, this seed of mindfulness and everybody knows that all of us have this precious seed in us.
When you drink water, if you are aware of the fact that you are drinking water, mindfulness is there. Mindfulness is the energy that makes it possible for us to be aware of what is happening in the present moment.
When you breathe in and you are aware that you are breathing in, mindfulness is there. Mindfulness is always mindfulness of something. When you are angry and you know that you are angry, mindfulness is there. Anger is one energy, mindfulness is another, and this second kind of energy arises in order to care for the first like a mother caring for her baby.

(To see True Love on Amazon, click here)

Amiri Baraka - Black Art

Amiri Baraka reads one of his more controversial pieces backed by Sonny Murray on drums, Albert Ayler on tenor saxophone, Don Cherry on trumpet, Henry Grimes on bass and Louis Worrell on bass. This was recorded for the album Sonny's Time Now which was released in 1967.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Avett Brothers' "Morning Song" Explained (and a preview)

The Avett Brothers recently explained the story behind their song "Morning Song," which will be featured on their upcoming album Magpie and the Dandelion which will be released Oct. 15th.

Here is a preview of "Morning Song":

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Gregory Corso - Ecce Homo

Ecce Homo
- painting by Theodoricus

Inside the wounded hands and feet
the fragments of earlier wounds (almost healed)
like black almonds crusted
are answer enough--
the nails went thru the man to God.

The crown of thorns (a superb idea!)
and the sidewound (an atrocity!)
only penetrate the man.

I have seen many paintings of this;
the same inflictions,
subject of proof; ecce signum
the same sad face;
I have forgotten them all.
O Theodoricus, youth, vagueness, my fault; yet yours!
What a grief! this
impossible to forget.

(Here is a poem by one of the youngest Beat writers, Gregory Corso. The King James translation of the Bible indicates the phrase "ecce homo," means "Behold the man!" According to Wikipedia, it is the phrase Pontius Pilate uttered upon seeing Jesus and his crown of thorns. I could not find the Theordoricus painting anywhere online, so instead I used one from Wikipedia.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Suheir Hammad - Into Egypt

A short film/video for Suheir Hammad's poem "Into Egypt." Directed by Waleed Zaiter.

To download this video, follow this link.

Miraculous Nature

"To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself." —Thich Nhat Hanh

Last week we began to explore the difference between our true self, which is the source of all our love and happiness, and our learned self or ego, which is the source of our fear and suffering. Although the ego has a difficult reputation, our intention isn’t to judge it or attempt to get rid of it because such efforts only intensify the drama of the ego and the struggle in our lives. Instead, we want to focus on embracing all aspects of our self, letting the healing that comes with self-acceptance work miracles in our lives.
This week we will begin to let go of self-judgment as we experience the wholeness and truth of our essential nature. We will open our hearts to ourselves and let ourselves feel the love that has been there all along.
Our centering thought for the week is:
I am a wondrous miracle of life.

Begin today by putting your attention on your heart. Take time to connect with and feel how much your soul wants you to know that you are loved and appreciated. Look into your own eyes and see your timelessness. See everything—the joy, sadness, compassion, playfulness, and wisdom. You contain everything. You are whole. Each time you find yourself in front of a mirror today take a moment to witness yourself. As you look deeply into your own eyes, hold all aspects of yourself in loving awareness, silently repeat these words three times, “I see you, I accept you, I love you.” Carry this practice through your day and witness your heart gently open to yourself and others.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Glimpse Into The Life of Jamie Livingston

This is a touching story. A man named Jamie Livingston started a project of taking a Polaroid photograph every day until he finally passed away from cancer in 1997. Thank you for such a wonderful idea, and sharing pieces of your life with the rest of the world, Jamie. Some great and beautiful and some not-so-great  moments were caught. Below are some of his photos.

Click here to read Livingston's Wikipedia page. Click here to read the story as reported by Mental Floss. Click here to go to the official website of this project, where the photographs are archived by year.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Vince Staples - Stolen Youth (Review and Free Download)

If you like intelligent street raps mixed with iconoclastic questioning of authority, spit over soulful and eerie beats, Vince Staples is for you.

Before the beat drops, Larry Fisherman provides a surreal sounding piece of music. It’s almost like the sound you hear when you put your ear up to a conch shell and hear “the ocean.” When the beat finally drops, I was a little bit bored. That changed as soon as Vince Staples spit his first lines. A few bars in, he says: “Tryin to live by your means/breaking news 10PM see your friends on the screen.” And it is apparent that Staples is not another rapper glorifying the street life, rather, he’s going to give you the truth: good, bad, beautiful or ugly and nothing will stop him from bringing it to you. This is the weakest beat on the album, but stay patient and you will hear greatness.

                At 10 tracks, Stolen Youth is terse. Wasting no bars, using no superfluous run-around statements, Staples gives you his life straight forward and to the point without missing a beat. For those who don’t know, Larry Fisherman is the production alias used by Mac Miller. He appears as a feature on 2 tracks, but I am happy to report that Vince Staples clearly owns this album and steals the show even from such talented heavy weight features like Miller, Ab-Soul and ScHoolboy Q. The other lesser known features Hardo, Dash and Joey Fatts also shine bright at their parts, but this is clearly Staples’ album.

                “I gotta stop with the trigger talkin, I promised mama, but I’m rappin’ my life,” Staples raps on the second track. So he establishes early on that there will be no glorification, rather, reporting live and direct from the streets of Long Beach, California. That line is followed by “I should throw my shows in synagogues, mention me when you mention God, but fuck it I’m just talkin shit to y’all.” That’s the kind of showmanship and bravado I love to hear from an MC. Because, after all, the first word in “MC” is Master. Vince Staples is clearly a master of his craft, and it is apparent that he will not waver in his relentless pursuit for truth telling and finding success.

                On “Heaven,” Staples explores “what Heaven’s like,” all the while kicking tales of stealing meals from the mall, his mother’s mortality, gun ownership, having a heavy heart and not trusting certain women, among other things. Mac Miller handles the hook, but I have to wonder who actually wrote it.

                At this point in the album, there is cohesiveness between the lyrics and the music behind them. Staples and Fisherman clearly have chemistry, as is obvious by now. To reiterate, the weakest beat on the album is the first track. But Fisherman displays his skills quite nicely, and the rest of the beats on this album are great.

“Back Sellin’ Crack,” is very soulful. A vocal sample lingers in the background as Staples proclaims: “I’ve learned a lot in these 19 years, a lot of homies ain’t shed one tear, God decide what my curfew is.” With that double entendre, Staples allows the power of interpretation to reside with the listener. Sadly, lesser rappers can’t do this. Is he speaking literally? Are his parents not mindful of when he comes home at night? Or is he using “curfew” as a metaphor for the end of his life? ScHoolboy Q closes out the track with a nice verse, but unfortunately, pales in comparison to Staple’s previous efforts on the song.

                Staples opens “Stuck in My Ways” with the lines, “I wanna ask God why the Bible lied to me, just full of politics leavin’ niggas without a sin, is it false prophets who forge religious documents, I’d spend my whole life sinnin’ without a consequence.” At this point it is clear, even at the young age of 19, that Staples is able to think for himself, question authority and usher his own meaning and sense of purpose into his life. I wish I could say the same about the 19 year old me, and I have an inclination that Staples is unique in this ability if compared to other 19 year olds.

                My least favorite moment on the album is Staples’ verse on “Sleep.” Not because it’s a wack verse. Not at all. It’s just that who would want to go anchor after the likes of Ab-Soul and Mac Miller? Not to mention a great opening verse from Dash. But it’s a good thing that the features are sparse, it allows Staples carry the bulk of the weight like only he can.

                My favorite track is “Killin Y’all” (“Sleep” is also up there) which features Black Hippy representative Ab-Soul. This is also my favorite beat on the album. There’s an eeriness about the music behind the lyrics. The bass line is on point and the accompanying samples lend attention to the lyrics, which is what the beat should always do. Ab-Soul opens up the track, claiming: “Vince know what I know now and I’m 26.” At this point, if it wasn’t already apparent, Staples possesses a maturity and candor seldom seen in people his age. And he’s ahead of his time. I look forward to future releases from this artist. Word around the internet is Staples and fellow rapper Common will be working together on future music. I can only imagine what they will cook up. This man is one to watch, and his future is bright. Keep your eyes peeled and ears open. He’s not done yet. This is only the beginning of what will be a prosperous career.

Some High lights:
“Might seem jaded but even Satan was heaven sent”

“Nothin’ but anger inside that chamber, they from the other side so we hate ‘em no need explainin’”

“I just wanna get my bread and talk my shit ‘fo I end up dead.”

“I’m from the ghetto where the oceans is, but all hope is lost, we know the laws and quick to break em once the dough involved.”

“You better than I? Nobody alive.”

“House look like a gun range, room look like a gun store, either y’all gon’ know my name or nigga’s dyin’ young and poor.”

“You be into rap beef cuz you ain’t never had beef.”

Mac Miller’s verse on “Sleep.”

To download Vince Staples' "Stolen Youth," via DJ Booth, click here.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket

The life, works and beliefs of the late writer and civil rights activist are recounted: what it is to be born black, impoverished, gifted, and gay in a world that has yet to understand that “all men are brothers.” James Baldwin tells his own story in this emotional portrait.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Giving Is The Best Communication

Here's a short film from Thailand. Very moving. Very inspiring. I have no clue who produced, acted or directed this film as the youtube does not indicate any of those. Update: After translating the page from Thai, this appears to be a commercial.

Mistah F.A.B. Destroys The Microphone Live On Seattle Radio

While on tour in Seattle, Oakland rapper Mistah F.A.B. kicks some bars for KUBE 93's Sunday Night Sound Session. I love his flow, but I won't front, that line about the 49ers makes me a bit salty. Oh well.

Also, Mistah F.A.B.'s new mixtape, "Hella Ratchet" is available for free download via DatPiff. Click here to listen/download that.

Kristoff Krane Releases "No Where Found" For Free Download

There's no denying the fact that Kristoff Krane is a skilled emcee. His style belongs to him and him only. However, I enjoy his singing much more than his rapping. If you enjoyed the "Moon Goddess" video posted earlier, you will also enjoy this song "No Where Found." It is available for free download for what I understand to be a limited time. Get it while you can!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Lewis Black Has Some Advice For Writers

This is for all the writers out there. Lewis Black gives some advice like only he can.

Ed Bok Lee - American Woods

Ed Bok Lee performs his poem "American Woods." Video by Mark Tang. Music by Fres Thao. Vocals by Kachyia Vang.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dr. Cornel West Interviews Brother Ali

So this happened a while ago, but I just got hip. Brother Ali and Dr. Cornel West in conversation. Topics discussed include his approach to making music, Cornel West's memoir, the lasting effects of Eyedea and his father's deaths, feeling love for his first teacher, the lie of whiteness, the illusion of being separated from God, how his career got started, and other topics as well.

Bobby Baker's Diary Drawings

From the amazon page for Bobby Baker's book, "Diary Drawings: Mental Illness and Me.":
In 1996 the artist Bobby Baker was diagnosed as having borderline personality disorder. Her subsequent struggle to overcome severe mental and later physical illness lasted for 11 years, and was unknown to anyone outside her close family, friends and colleagues. The 158 drawings and watercolours in this book, selected by Bobby from the hundreds more that she created daily as a private way of coming to terms with her experience, are an astonishing record of her slow and harrowing journey to eventual recovery. Moving, startling, shocking and hilarious in turn, these diary drawings reveal the stark realities of living with mental illness and of society's lack of understanding.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Avett Brothers Talk "Another Is Waiting"

The Avett Brothers are getting ready to release their new album Magpie and the Dandelion on October 15th. Here, they briefly discuss the first single from that album "Another Is Waiting."

To pre-order The Avett Brothers new album from iTunes, follow this link. To listen to "Another Is Waiting," via YouTube, click here.

Miraculous You

(Last month I participated in Deepak Chopra and Oprah's meditation challenge. In the following weeks, I will post each meditation that was done during the challenge. It was of great benefit to me to participate in this event, and I hope it will be for you as well. -wo)

“The one you are looking for is the one who is looking." 
—Francis of Assisi
Today we will consider the one thing that is required for any relationship to flourish:  knowing who we really are. While there is a natural tendency to find an identity in our roles in life, our personality, our work, our body, our culture, our stories of the past, and our dreams for the future, in reality, these are all temporary, external aspects of ourselves. Who we really are is eternal and unbounded. Our true self is pure love and pure spirit.
While our ego-mind may feel isolated and separate, our essential nature is whole and inextricably connected to the universe. Therefore, our journey towards miraculous relationships isn’t about searching for anything outside of ourselves. It’s about discovering the love that is already within us, and expressing it in all of our relationships.
Our centering thought for today is:
I am a radiant spiritual being.

Schedule several “soul breaks” for yourself today. Start these breaks by taking a deep breath. Feel your body and notice any tension you are holding. Take another deep breath and as you exhale, let it all go. Take a moment to reflect on the tone of your recent inner dialogue, the quality of your interactions with others, and the emotions you have been experiencing along the way. Just observe what is. This exercise can be done in one or two minutes and is one way to strengthen your alignment with your true self, or soul. Your true self is infinite love and always feels safe and connected. Taking “soul breaks” each day naturally shifts your awareness of your divine, radiant nature.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Kristoff Krane - Moon Goddess

Kristoff Krane performs his song "Moon Goddess," live on the Mississippi River. He's looking forward to releasing an acoustic album in Winter 2014.

Linda Gregerson Is A Master of Her Craft

Linda Gregerson is not a good poet. She is a great poet. A lot of the poems in The Woman Who Died In Her Sleep deal with death and mortality. This is one of my favorite subjects. But this isn’t the whole of the book. She also deals with religion, love, parenthood, weather and seasons, politics in America, life in Michigan and a myriad of other matters that you’ll just have to dig into by reading this book.

                For Gregerson, death isn’t an event that we wait to reach. Death is all around us. It is as much a part of life as life is a part of life. Life and death cannot be separated. Although this notion is not new, by any means, the way she communicates this fact is fresh and heart-warming. What can we do about something that is always around us? It surrounds us with its open arms like blankets. For Gregerson, death is found in abundance, on the dinner plate and in the grass. She mentions a neighbor’s sentiment that death “will not have her if Jesus/does first.”

                I should back track a bit. The poems in this collection are not about death. Rather, the many ideas and notions of death, some true and some false, are so imbedded within the work just as death is so imbedded within life. Death is not subject matter, but thematic and the thoroughness with which Gregerson addresses it is very admirable. She presents many different ideas from many different people: Her daughter, her neighbor, her father, etc. So it’s not just Gregerson’s notions of death that we read, but a communal attempt at understanding what it is and what to do about it.

                In this age of information it is easy to think we are entitled to freedom. And those who lack means or access to this information are below us. However, Gregerson asserts in the poem “Luke 17:32,” differently: “How is it in this second/world, the one where we start over, that/we still/can’t get the story right? Who/cannot read shall not/be saved.” A lot of Jesus’ followers were illiterate. Mohammad, arguably one of the greatest prophets to ever live, could not read. Are Jesus’ followers saved? Is Mohammad saved? Gregerson’s question is valid. What does it take for us to feel like we are better off than another? Where are we going? Are we any better off now than in Jesus’ or Mohammad’s time?

                One of my favorite lines in the entire book comes from the poem “Creation Myth,” where Gregerson writes: “I/will take the world for home.” This line is so simple yet so profound. I feel like there are a lot of religious people who deny this world. They are so caught up with the idea of Heaven or an afterlife that they don’t allow themselves to be at home here. Now, being at home here proves to be a difficult task. With all the death, killing, destruction, lying, cheating and stealing going on. Though it is challenging, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a worthwhile task. I myself am interested in Heaven as well. But that doesn’t mean I don’t attempt to find home amidst the chaos of this world. It takes a lot of strength to call this place home, and to feel that it is. There is a lot of responsibility that comes with it. You’ve got to hold yourself accountable for the condition the world is in, and not just brush it off as a temporary dwelling that you have no stake in. That line, to me, is an act of taking responsibility for your actions and the actions of fellow human beings.

                The entire collection of poems is a testament to Gregerson’s mastery of her craft. However, it seems she saved her best for last. The last poem of the book is “The Woman Who Died In Her Sleep.” And it doesn’t appear to deal with death as much as birth. But perhaps that is the genius of Gregerson, she realizes the two cannot be separated. She talks about the birth of her daughter, and the months leading up to her birth. She finds it “Amazing/what the flesh can make of all this in/terruption.” She talks about the innocence of her daughter, and how she hasn’t yet learned to ignore her mortal wounds.  

                At 77 pages, this book is concise. Upon finishing it, I immediately wished there was more. But I find solace in the fact that I can go back to this book over and over again. Gregerson doesn’t just talk about her world. She brings us there. When you open the first page, prepare to be taken on a journey like one you’ve never been on before. Prepare to be inspired and disturbed with daring delight. My only regret is that I didn’t find this book of poems sooner. This is the kind of art that I really need.  

To see The Woman Who Died in Her Sleep on Amazon, click here.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Some Words From Mear One

Los Angeles based artist Mear One was interviewed by Vandalog recently. This time he's not speaking through painting but his own words.

Click here to read the full interview.


I was at a thrift store yesterday, looking for books. I had to share the browsing time with 4 gentlemen who had some kind of device attached to their smart phones. They were scanning the bar codes of each book, one by one. A tedious task if you ask me. But they ended up with 2 huge boxes of text books and other miscellaneous books. I've seen this before, but not quite to such a large scale. They seemed to be working as a team, and I wonder who they're going to sell their new prizes to.

Anyhow, I found a jackpot of sorts. Well at least, what I hope to be a jackpot. For years I've listened to my brother and other friends rant and rave about Chuck Palahniuk. I've been given books by him to borrow, actually Choke is still on my shelf where it's been for close to a year without ever picking it up. There is no reason for this, perhaps laziness. I just haven't gotten around to reading him. I found 3 of his books at the thrift store. One was a collection of short stories, Stranger Than Fiction which I passed on. I picked up 2 of the 3, thinking if I really enjoy his work I can come back to the short stories. If I don't enjoy his work I can always give the books to my brother, or any number of friends who've raved about him to me in the past.

The other book I found I have heard about for years as well: Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I haven't heard one bad thing about this book, so I figured it's worth the 2 bucks to see what all the fuss is about. So I picked up 3 books and came in below my budget of $7. I'm looking forward to seeing if all the hype is deserved.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Jack Kerouac's American Haiku

Jack Kerouac reads a selection of his haikus with the help of saxophonists Al Cohn & Zoot Sims. Sketches by Peter Gullerud.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Killer Mike interviewed by HiphopDX

Great (and lengthy) interview of Atlanta's Killer Mike. Topics discussed include Martin Luther King Jr. being a "nigga with attitude," Scarface, why him and El-P are friends, ghostwriting, rap as poetry, women twerking to "Reagan" and a bunch of other stuff.

If you haven't heard Killer Mike's 2012 album "R.A.P. Music," you're really slippin! One of my favorite albums of last year and one of my favorite albums to come out of the Dungeon Family since Still Standing.

Also, his collaboration album with Brooklyn rapper/producer El-P, "Run The Jewels," is really fucking good. Perhaps even album of the year, if you're asking me. By the way, they released that album for FREE.

To read the interview in it's entirety, click here.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

12 Years

I have a lot to say on this anniversary, but I will spare you. Instead, I'd like to point you to some poetry written about 9/11. I don't know what it is about poetry, that draws us to it, especially in our darkest times, but it can be healing. There is power found in poetry even if we are physically powerless. First, Suheir Hammad's poem written in 2001 titled "First Writing Since."

Next, Mike Rosen's poem "When God Happens," written and performed in 2012.

As well, here are a couple links to great posts by Poetry Foundation. Click here for two poems by Wislawa Szymborska (translated from Polish) and American poet William Matthews.

Click here to hear (then) U.S. poet laureate Billy Collins read "The Names" as well as a discussion about how he composed it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Drea d'Nur - Day of d'Nur (Review & Free Download)

If you enjoy soothing and transforming vocals, being challenged and inspired by a unique and gifted singer, Drea d'Nur is for you.

Drea d’Nur has a beautiful voice. That is obvious, so I’m not breaking any new ground in saying this. I just want to give you what is on the surface before we get more into her music. She holds the notes very well. Her cadence is unorthodox but it meshes well with the music’s production. Her subject matter is political, but it’s a shame I have to box her in like that. Because most pop music is watered down bullshit with no emotion. No politics. No multifaceted outlooks. d’Nur’s music is not like that. She’s got substance, soul, feeling and flavor imbedded in every single pore of every single line, note, piano and guitar riff.

 The album opens with “Beautiful,” that starts off with a calming guitar then d’Nur sings “Whoa-ohh-Whoa-ohh” until the first verse starts. “She used to cry every day before school for the things they used to do to her,” d’Nur sings. You can tell this song is for the ones who have been hurt and/or are still hurting. “You’re beautiful, so beautiful,” she continues. I can appreciate this message. I was never bullied because of my skin color because I was in the majority. Even if you don’t relate to the abuse d’Nur alludes to, you’ve got to appreciate the message she brings forth. It is a message of empowerment. Never giving up. Knowing who you are, and remembering that you are always beautiful. “The size of my waist, God gave to me, and I love it, you can take it or leave it.” she sings.

 The next track, “Cry For Change,” opens with her playing piano and holding a very calming note. Before the arrival of the first verse, I felt peaceful and calm. However, that changed. When the beat drops, I was immediately given to discomfort and a terrorizing sensation of fear. “I heard a gunshot” she sings. This is not a song that will make you feel happy. But instead, it will make you think about the terrible injustice and horrific violence that permeates American culture. If your skin is black, you can become a target quicker than one can snap their fingers. “Tell me what we gon’ do,” d’Nur sings. This is not an artist that hides behind masks of certainty or ill assurance. She puts her heart into the song, and it is not apparent that she has any answers to provide. However, it is still imperative to ask these questions. If we don’t ask these questions, we may retreat into blind optimism or vices of ignorance, denial and apathy. We may not even be aware that this is reality.

 The entire album provides exquisite juxtapositions of anger and joy, beauty and ugly, pain and pleasure, fear and motivation. The voice is beautiful. The music behind the voice is beautifully haunting. It engages with the senses and provides a chance for the listener to build and destroy, inspire and frighten. Because something new and useful cannot come to fruition until the old and useless are forgotten, abandoned and/or buried.

 Aside from “Systematic Slavery,” my favorite song on the album is “I Hid My Love (inside my hips).” d’Nur sings “my essence remains a mystery.” And this is my favorite line on the entire album. Sometimes there is strength to be found in not knowing. While acknowledging this, there is a ferocity of the spirit that will not give up even when a lack of answers is found. Music doesn’t always have to tell us what to think, feel or be. There is tremendous power found in allowing the self to remain a mystery. It is apparent that d’Nur is aware of this, as she displays on this song and throughout the album. This is my favorite song, but really, there are no skippable songs on the entire album. Every song serves it’s unique purpose. Every song is packed with emotion and understanding. If it isn’t understanding, it is a striving to understand. And that is powerful.

What is the downside of this album? You probably won’t want to drink, smoke or fuck to it. (However, if you’re making love, and not just fucking, I suggest you play “Love Stereo” and/or “The Way (uncut)” when things are getting intimate in order to bring it to that next level). It most likely won’t make you want to dance. But there’s plenty of music to party and dance to. We don’t have to party or dance our entire lives away. Don’t put this on when you’re cleaning your house. Put this on when you have a moment of solitude, time to really listen, time to think and time to be challenged emotionally, spiritually and mentally. If you like depth, insight, and being brought outside of your comfort zone in order for learning to take place, this album is for you.

  To download Day of d'Nur for FREE, click here.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Eckhart Tolle: Embodying Stillness

After some visual imagery and some time to sit in silence, Eckhart Tolle explains the difference between method and meditation.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Poem From Milarepa

River, ripples, and waves, these three,
When emerging, arise from the ocean itself.
When disappearing, they disappear into the ocean itself.
Habitual thinking, love, and possessiveness, these three,
When arising, arise from the alaya consciousness itself.
When disappearing, they disappear into the alaya consciousness itself.
Self-awareness, self-illumination, self-liberation, these three,
When arising, arise from the mind itself.
When disappearing, they disappear into the mind itself.
The unborn, unceasing, and unexpressed, these three,
When emerging, arise from the nature of being itself.
When disappearing, they disappear into the nature of being itself.
The visions of demons, clinging to demons, and thoughts of demons,
When arising, arise from the Yogin himself.
When disappearing, they disappear into the Yogin himself.
Since demons are the phantoms of the mind,
If it is not understood by the Yogin that they are empty appearances,
And even if he thinks they are real, meditation is confused.
But the root of the delusion is in his own mind.
By observation of the nature of manifestations,
He realizes the identity of manifestation and void,
And by understanding, he knows that the two are not different.
Meditation and not meditation are not two but one,
The cause of all errors is to look upon the two things as different.
From the ultimate point of view, there is no view.
If you make comparison between the nature of the mind
And the nature of the heavens,
Then the true nature of being itself is penetrated.
See, now, that you look into the true meaning which is beyond thought.
Arrange to enter into undisturbed meditation.
And be mindful of the Unceasing Intuitive Sensation!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Bambu - Sun of a Gun (Review & Download link)

Bambu is setting the bar high with his rhyming and production choices. If you enjoy being provoked, inspired to think for yourself and witnessing the elements of Hiphop being married, this album is for you.

After listening to Bambu's "Sun of a Gun" I get the feeling his militant tendencies are not a choice, but a necessity. In a political climate where it is easy to be addled, Bambu is eloquent and up front about his ideas, beliefs and dreams. Even though he admittedly doesn't believe in heaven, I get the vibe that he is there when he’s making music. When the truth is often muddied, distant or flat out ignored, Bambu is a breath of fresh air speaking his personal truths with reverence and a damn good ear for choosing beats. The only beat I didn't enjoy is "Like Jay-Z." Not because it's wack, it's just not my style.

The production on the entire album lends itself to a sense of continuity. Although it doesn't appear to be a concept album on the surface, dig a little deeper and every song is in the order it's supposed to be. Each track lends something new and allows the following song to pick up where the one before it left off. In the beginning of the album, we hear Bambu poetically addressing the health care industry, smoking weed, and having no fixed agenda. The second track is dedicated to the many "potnas" he hangs with, smokes with and cruises with. Bambu's flow is bordering on double time throughout the track. This is great because the chorus is screwed, so there is great balance here. If the first two tracks are his topic sentence, the last track "Sun in a Million" is his thesis.

It opens with a choir singing "Whoa-ohh" for a couple bars (and throughout the track), which immediately sets the tone for the song. That part of the song really touched my soul, and made me bring my undivided attention. Before the time Bambu spits his first lines, I was ready to listen to what he had to say. It is a great way to close out an album. The beat is laid back, as is Bambu's flow. Although the cadence is more relaxed, the subject matter is anything but. He addresses gun laws, home invasions and the flaws found in the institution of marriage.

One of the great things about “Sun of a Gun” is the plethora of DJ's showcasing their skills throughout the album. 10 of the 15 tracks feature DJ's cutting and mixing on the choruses and to conclude the tracks. This is great. Hearing a DJ scratch is one of those things, if you're like me, that brings great joy. To know the elements are being married on this album is very reassuring for the direction Hiphop will grow in the future. DJ Babu of Beat Junkies and DJ Q-bert of Invisible Scratch Pickles are just two of the guest DJ's that appear.

On the Rhettmatic produced "Galvanter," Bambu spends the first verse shouting out various California Hiphop veterans (this is the lowest ranked track of the album in my iTunes because I don’t enjoy excessive name dropping). The beat is fluid and filled with suspense. Rhettmatic loops a high piano note backed by a killer bass line. The next verse is spent in part remembering how the MC got his start: in ciphers. You get the feeling that Bambu's bars pack a punch because he's spent his entire life perfecting and honing his skills. This is the best beat on the album. It's hardcore and compliments Bambu's verses perfectly.

My favorite track on the album is "Yayo." The way Bambu pronounces it is not a reference to nose candy (i think), rather "yea...yo" as a positive affirmation. There's something hypnotizing about the beat. Which could be a failure and force attention to the music instead of the lyrics for a lesser MC, however, the way Bambu spits on this track, everything comes together successfully.

If Bambu's goal with releasing "Sun of a Gun" for free was to showcase his talents and expose him to new fans, I feel like he succeeded. I vaguely knew about him from his work with Native Guns in the earlier 2000's and with Seattle MC Prometheus Brown as The Bar. But to be honest I never paid too much attention to his work. Now it's different. He proves himself to be a great story teller, poet and all around incredible MC with this release.

Some highlights:

"Was tryin not to bring the bangin in the rap when i started, cuz in the 90's bullets flyin just to see where your heart is"

"I roll up like 'fuck these clowns,' hop out of the Chevy Soul Assassins style"

"I still will murder a break, I still will get in your face, I still be claimin LA like I just got jumped in a gang"

"So pistols been in my life, I'm sayin, longer than Dad was. My job to raise my son to grow up strong like Cali bud."

"We talkin business in America. Lobbyists control the beat and tempo of the opera"

"Medusa in my chest turning stones out my lungs" -

Brother Ali's verse on Illuminotme

George Carlin sample on Illuminotme

To download Bambu's "Sun of a Gun," follow this link. For an alternate download link via DJ Booth, click here.

Two Great Finds

While browsing my favorite thrift store in Vallejo, I came across two great finds. First, a poet whom I've never heard of but looks promising, The Woman Who Died in Her Sleep, by Linda Gregerson. The description on the back of the book indicates the poems deal with death and mortality quite a bit in this collection. Right up my alley! I purchased this book for a little over $2.

Second, I found Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. I first fell in love with Morrison's books in college. I zoomed through Sula and Beloved thanks to a great tip from one of my favorite professors. After completing those rather quickly, it took me a few years until I picked up Song of Solomon which turned out to be my favorite book by her and one of my favorite books of all time. I purchased The Bluest Eye for a little over 50 cents.